The Harvard Mock Trial Team defeated Yale last weekend to win the American Mock Trial Association’s national championship for the first time in program history.
Harvard rose to the top of the 48 teams in the national tournament—selected from hundreds nationwide—to claim its first national title.
The team has consistently placed in the top five or 10 teams in the nation and has three previous final round appearances, including one in 2006 when they lost by one point to the University of Virginia.
Teammates say the victory was especially poignant as it came just over a year after the death of team member Angela R. Mathew ’15 in a car accident on the way back from a mock trial tournament on Feb. 10, 2014.
Team co-captain Zach J. Lustbader ’16 emphasized the value of the strong mock trial community.
“We’ve come a long way in the past year,” he said, “and we know we couldn’t have done it if we hadn’t all worked together.”
Harvard is also the first Ivy League school to win the AMTA national championship, according to Lustbader and fellow co-captain Neil M. Alacha ’16.
According to Alacha, schools like the University of Virginia and Princeton have “armies” of coaches, often alumni, which some argue put student-run teams at schools like Harvard and Yale at a disadvantage.
“I felt good about the fact that it was Yale because it shows that student-run teams can do just as well,” he said.
For new team member Jordan A. Alston-Harmon ’17, the excitement came not from the well-known rivalry between the schools but from the intense competition.
“Both teams wanted to go in and do the best they could,” he said. “Of course we all wanted to win, but it wasn’t the same [as the Harvard-Yale football game].”
In the AMTA tournament, teams of six to 10 members argue a fake court case in front of a group of judges. Participants play the roles of both attorneys and witnesses and are scored on their knowledge of the case, speech skills, and improvised responses to the other team’s strategy.
For his remaining two years at Harvard, Alston-Harmon said he is looking forward to continuing to improve his mock trial skills.
“And I would have no complaints if we have two more national championships,” he added.
–Staff writer Caleb O. Shelburne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @caleboshelburne.